Confused by conflicting advice on how to keep your baby cool, comfy and safe in sweltering summer temperatures? Don’t get hot and bothered — here are the facts.
How can I tell if my baby is too warm? “One way is to feel the back of the baby’s neck,” says Ottawa paediatrician and Canadian Paediatric Society spokesperson Alyson Shaw. If it’s hot or damp and clammy, try stripping off a layer of his clothing. Fussiness, crying and heat rash (see below) are other clues your infant could be feeling the heat.
What does heat rash look like? And how do I treat it? “It’s usually red or pink and bumpy,” notes Shaw, and tends to crop up where airflow is poor — where clothing fits snugly, in skin creases or areas that come in contact with the car seat. But, she adds, “babies can get heat rash on their faces too.” The remedy? Remove clothing (including diapers) from the affected area, and sponge down the skin with lukewarm (not cool) water. Leave the rash exposed to the air as much as possible, and dress your baby in light, loose-fitting clothing made of a breathable fabrics like cotton. As long as you keep your baby cool, the bumps should start fading within about 12 hours. If not, “talk to your doctor to make sure it’s actually heat rash,” suggests Shaw.
How should I keep him cool and comfortable at bedtime? If you have air conditioning, set the thermostat at 18 to 20°C (65 to 68° F). If not, use a fan to keep air in your baby’s room circulating, but don’t point it directly at him. The “one more layer than you’re comfortable in” rule still applies: If you’re sleeping in the buff with no sheet, just a T-shirt and diaper should do nicely for your baby.
My mother-in-law insists I should give water to my baby, who’s exclusively breastfed. What gives? Scientists who’ve studied this question found exclusively breastfed babies do fine without water, even in hot, steamy weather. What’s more, experts recommend not giving water because it might interfere with normal weight gain. (When your baby starts eating other foods, you can occasionally offer a little water in a cup.) Breastmilk is actually a good thirst quencher: It’s about 80 percent water and contains the right balance of sugar, salts and minerals to prevent dehydration. But you might find that your baby wants to feed more frequently, notes Joanne Warren, a board-certified lactation consultant at St. Joseph’s Health Care London (Ont.). The reason: The first part of the breastmilk has more water content than the richer hindmilk. Trust Mother Nature to come up with an ingenious way of helping babies beat the heat!
Originally published in June 2012.